Automotive supplier Continental announces it has developed an input device allowing the transition from manual to automated driving.

Besides informing vehicle occupants when automated or manual driving is possible, Smart Control also can be used to initiate driving maneuvers, Continental says in a news release.

During manual driving, Smart Control retracts into the center console so the driver can use it only as a touchpad. When the vehicle comes to a section of road suitable for highly or fully automated driving (SAE levels 4 and 5), the device rises from the center console and the driver can activate the automated driving mode. The device can be operated like a joystick and provides the operator with variable haptic feedback.

Smart Control, combined with other cockpit elements such as the digital instrument cluster, lights up in a specific color to inform vehicle occupants about the current driving mode. Continental says this helps keep the driverʼs attention at an optimum level, especially while the car is in automated-driving mode.

“We call this cooperative automation,” says Jennifer Wahnschaff, head of instrumentation & driver HMI-Continental North America. “The vehicle performs the driving tasks, such as keeping to the correct lane and maintaining a safe follow distance to the surrounding traffic, all without the driverʼs involvement.

“The driver has the option to initiate more complex driving tasks, such as passing maneuvers on the freeway, which the vehicle then performs automatically,” Wahnschaff says.

The driver also can use Smart Control to switch between different information displays on the digital instrument cluster, from maximum surrounding visualization – which displays all road users in the immediate vicinity – to a reduced view that shows only the sections of road ahead. This function is designed to help foster trust in automated driving by providing the right amount of information at all times, Continental says.

“The success of automated vehicles will depend on the users’ acceptance and trust of the technology,” Wahnschaff says. “We intend to achieve this with a holistic human-machine interface that transparently informs users with intuitive interaction concepts and enables them to control driving maneuvers. With Smart Control, we have developed a new element for the interaction between user and vehicle.”

Smart Control also features a function which prevents unintentional operation by recognizing whether the driver actually pressed something or simply touched the device accidentally.

The design is being tested in Continental’s Cruising Chauffeur (SAE Level 3, conditional automation) development vehicles and can be individually modified for specific manufacturers, the supplier says.

jirwin@wardsauto.com